Update, November 14: I’ll put the updates in brackets from now, so everyone knows where the original post began.
[Via Matt Yglesias, Gregg Popovich had some interesting things to say on Veterans Day about the treatment of returning soldiers:
“In a lot of ways, it’s a joyous day if we all remember to honor people,” Popovich began. “But in some ways, it’s a sad day because (soldiers and veterans) don’t really get honored the way they should be. Some of it is just pablum. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of what they need, they’re really not getting everything.
“Just like the way it is right now – how many vets might have to do without food stamps because of what’s going on with the government right now? That program is huge to a lot of these families. I mean huge. It gets them through. And it may or may not be there – who knows? – because government is not very functional at this point, as we all know. So it’s a day to reflect, to honor but also to not lose sight of the fact that a whole lot more has to be done with what they’ve done for all of us.”
Yglesias goes on to note that the way this story was reported significantly misrepresented what Pop said. Headlines included things like “Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says veterans not honored properly” and “Popovich goes to bat for veterans.” In other words, here’s a case when a significant someone in the sports world tries to say something about veterans that isn’t, to use Popovich’s apt word, pablum. And it gets spit out that way anyway. Frustrating.]
In Salon today, Justin Doolittle has a piece very similar in thrust to what I wrote a couple of weeks back about the sports/armed forces nexus.
The core message of the NFL’s initiative is clearly articulated by Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin in a recent promo spot. Irvin opens by explaining that, sometimes, we must set aside the petty business of breaking down football games, and take a moment to “salute the people that inspire all of us.” (As is very common in pronouncements of appreciation for the military, “all of us” are automatically consigned to agreement.) Furthermore, the ability to “get away from our world, and whatever’s going on in our world” and talk about football — “that’s called freedom,” in the unusual mind of Michael Irvin, and “that freedom is not free.” Whom are we to thank for this? As it turns out, it’s the troops! Indeed, they are the ones who “make it possible” for Irvin and his colleagues to go on television and discuss football. Again, there is seemingly no limit to the scope of human activity that many of us sincerely believe would not be possible were it not for the military’s selflessness.
We need not thank the troops for every breath we take. When we do, we reduce our entire existence as free people to something that only exists at the whim of the U.S. military, and suffocate critical thought about the military and what it’s actually doing in the world.
As ESPN and the NFL fall all over themselves today to engage in such worshipfulness, Doolittle’s column is worth reading in full.